Frank L. Melega (1905-1997) born in Diamond, Indiana, moved with his family to West Brownsville in 1917. Melega's father was employed with the Lilley Mine of the Valley Coal Company. This coal miner’s son was destined to become the most famous artist to depict the Southwestern Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Era. His paintings, sculptures, and drawings are in museum, corporate, and private collections throughout the United States.


At an early age, Melega was recognized as having artistic talent. The self-taught artist began his career working at various jobs including commercial art and sign lettering. By the age of twenty-three, Melega owned the Art Sign Shop located at the present site of the Brownsville Post Office on Charles Street. Later he operated his sign business from his home where he was able to enjoy his family and spend many hours in his studio.


Melega first started exhibiting his fine art in 1933. He began exhibiting as a member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the nation’s oldest art association, in 1936. In 1952, he was invited to exhibit in the Carnegie International, one of the art world’s most prestigious honors. Also exhibiting in the show were Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth, and Willem de Kooning. Other art organizations to which Melega belonged include the Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors and the Uniontown Art Club. Throughout his career as an artist, Melega also taught art classes and painting workshops.


In 1954, the Second National Bank commissioned Melega to create a mural to be located in the Uniontown branch titled “The Spirit of Service”. The twelve by forty-two foot mural is one of the largest in Western Pennsylvania. “The Spirit of Service” is currently installed at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.


The last major commission for the artist was for the historic St. Peters Church in Brownsville. Mr. Melega was in his early nineties. He is remembered as a fearless artist, always trying the latest materials and technologies, including the photocopy machine. He was not content to stay in the genre for which he became famous, depicting the Coal and Coke era, Instead, he continued to explore different style from realism to abstraction to non-objective art. The museum is dedicated to present all types of styles, media, and philosophies in honor of Frank L. Melega’s life in art.


“In my world I feel the greatest moving

          and compelling force is art...”

                                -Frank L. Melega

 

Biography

Frank L. Melega

1905-1997

The artist in his studio.

Melega (on left), at his first sign painting job.

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